Maximillian is the name of the Copenhagen crooner who, at the tender age of 19, finds himself at the crossroads of leaving adolescence and catapulting himself into the world of music off the back of his latest single, Hollow Days. As far as ages and stages go, this is surely a significant one, evoking a whole host of conflicting emotions. Musically, these emotions all seem to be tussling it out for the spotlight in his diverse work. When quizzed on a possible definition of his genre, he takes a moment to ponder, before settling: “I’d say mostly Pop, mixed with R&B influences, and a lot of feelings.” A laugh slips out… He isn’t lying about the feelings.
It’s obvious that this is a man with a natural penchant for performance. So charming and engaged is his disposition when talking that everything sounds so well put together, with every statement accompanied by a healthy dash of poetry. Any poetry is then punctuated with a pleasant boyish brashness and undertones of self-deprecation, while his eloquence is all the more remarkable when considering that English is his second language. Needless to say, Maximillian transfers his bilingual talents flawlessly into his music. So, what provoked his choice to sing in English rather than his native Danish?
“I always sing in English. In fact, I prefer it. It’s so much easier to rhyme in English than in Danish, and I don’t actually like the sound of the Danish language too much. I don’t know if many of us do. It’s funny to think about it now, but when I learned English as a kid it was because my mum and dad used to speak about my Christmas or birthday presents in English in front of me, so that I couldn’t understand what they’d bought me.”
Has singing in English has ever hindered his expression?
“Not at all! English is the perfect language for what I call twisting words, or basically changing the sounds of words so that they rhyme with each other. The master of word twisting is Eminem. There’s a video on YouTube of him saying it pisses him off that people say nothing rhymes with the word ‘orange’, then it clips to a load of songs where he’s rhymed so many different words with ‘orange’ by twisting their sounds. It’s dope. That’s what the English language can do.”
Continuing with his nostalgic tip, Maximillian pinpoints the moment when an LED-fuelled epiphany made him realise that he should put all his energy into making music:
“My dad took me to a Pink Floyd concert in a massive arena in Copenhagen. I didn’t know much about their music until I got there, but I remember the visuals were fucking insane. There were massive LED walls shining high above us projecting an image of the Berlin Wall. When they started singing Another Brick in the Wall, it suddenly clicked. I was like, ‘Ohhh shit’. I felt it! I thought, ‘Man, I want to do that to people.’”
Caught in a heady blur of LED lights and Pink Floyd’s old school psychedelia, Max had visions of performing and entertaining crowds with his own music. Today, the dream is a reality, and one that’s quickly gaining momentum.
His most recent release, Hollow Days, is a 3-minute emotional journey that envelopes several different moods, with an honest brooding and infectiously catchy beat for accompaniment. He tells me that this track was a product of his regret over the failure of a loving relationship which he didn’t feel ready for, but which he missed bitterly upon its ending.
“The lyrics, ‘hollow days and sleepless nights’ really describes exactly how I felt at this time. I thought I’d be fine, I was basically being selfish and wasn’t ready for the love, but the moment it ended it hit me like a train. I couldn’t sleep for like two weeks, and yeah, I felt hollow. The song’s probably the single good thing that came out of the situation, and I guess I learned about myself.”
Delving into conversation with him, it becomes apparent that Max is in a loving relationship with his craft. Music isn’t a job, he insists. It’s not a Fordian production line process of churning out songs, it’s a very real and personal practice which takes time. As it happens, the deep love he holds for his art stems from the fact that music helped to recalibrate the troubled path of his younger days, a time which he expands upon only sparingly:
“I don’t want to give too much away, but I was getting into some stuff that I shouldn’t have been doing. I was aimless, just wasting my time. I was being a big asshole”… Another mischievous laugh slips out, “My parents sent me away to a boarding school for two years to try to bring me out of the negative cycle, and it worked.”
Despite outward appearances of a successful young artist who has it all mapped out, Maximillian admits that his songwriting is catalysed by the mistakes and meanderings that merge with being a muddled 19-year-old. It’s obvious that, whilst being a great passion of his, the process of writing and making music holds therapeutic properties for the young Dane:
“Writing will take me as long as it needs to take, so in that respect there are no constraints. If my feelings take a while to come out, then it’ll take a while. Strangers took me like 6 months to write, on and off! I said Hollow Days is like a note to self because it’s reminding me that I don’t want to be in that situation again, so it’s sort of helping me learn about love and relationships like everyone else.”
In the age of increasing mental health awareness and a widespread push for young males to open up and share their feelings, Maximillian’s fusion of emotionally immersive and sensual vocals seems all the more significant. I ask if his emotional honesty as a male artist brings something a little different to the music scene.
“I wouldn’t say it’s something completely different in that sense, man. Obviously, there might be less male artists that are really open with their feelings, I guess there’s sometimes more bravado about. But you’ve just got to look at people like Frank Ocean. He’s such a big influence for me. He’s helped talking about feelings to become cool. I’d say especially in Denmark, guys my age aren’t always very open with their feelings, but I sort of realised that this is how I have to be. If you don’t share how you feel, it nearly always gets worse.”
Having set the bar high with his work to date, he tells me about his next body of work – which is due for release in 2019. The excitement in his voice is palpable. It becomes clear that his reserved earlier comments on his ‘bad’ past haven’t come from a place of coldness or reserve, but rather from a struggle to hold in the intimate elements of his past until the new work is complete. It’s a form of catharsis. Only then, he promises, will a greater insight into his past emerge:
“I don’t want to say too much on it right now, man. But the music’s going to be based upon a lot of my experiences I had when I was acting up when I was younger, and I can’t wait for everyone to hear it. If I hadn’t had these experiences, I don’t think I’d be able to make music. I’m also super excited because I’ve been working with a bunch of different producers, so there’s a whole mix of different vibes to come. I always think producers are like magicians of sound, then it’s up to me to complement their magic with my vocals and lyrics.”
With the forthcoming craft sounding highly promising, it’s about time for an etymological nudge: the name Maximillian stems from the Latin name ‘Maximilianus’, meaning ‘the greatest’. A little early for such jumps, perhaps, but the signs thus far are positive. In all five of his songs officially released up to this point, Maximillian’s velvet vocals transcend multiple moods. With him taking the task of perfecting and polishing his music so seriously, Max is surely due to make waves over the next twelve months.
Photography: Liam Arthur
Styling: Rosie Borgerhoff Mulder
Grooming: Sophie Moore